While Paris is known for its museums and galleries, the Eiffel Tower and other iconic landmarks, there are also a number of historically significant castles and palaces in and around the French capital. If French châteaux are your thing and you have exhausted those within the city itself, there are many castles near Paris to visit.
Some of these are only an hour or so by car, train, or metro. So they can easily visited on a day trip from Paris. As they are further out and in many cases not as well known as other attractions in Paris, visiting these chateaux is often a great way to escape the crowds.
Once private or official residences, some of these beautiful places are now home to world-class collections of all sorts of objects. Whatever your interests, spectacular architecture with sumptuous interiors, gorgeous gardens or wild forests, culture and history, this is a list for you when planning your next trip to Paris.
In the lower level of the Louvre Museum’s Sully Wing visitors can see substantial foundations of the original Louvre Castle. Built as a fortress by King Philip II of France, and completed in 1202, it was intended to reinforce the walls constructed to protect Paris against invasions. The threat then being from the English who were based in Normandy. In the 14th century the castle became a royal residence for King Charles V – the Louvre Palace.
The Louvre Museum that we all know so well is actually a former Royal residence. From 1360 to 1380 the palace was transformed from a fortress to a residence for Charles V when he abandoned the Palais de la Cité. Since then it was used by kings of France as their principle residence in Paris. Following the French Revolution certain parts became a museum, opening to the public on 10 August 1793. The museum now occupies most of the building.
On the Île de la Cité, this palace was the residence of French kings between the 6th and 14th centuries. From then until the French Revolution it housed financial and judicial offices of state. After the Revolution it was used as a prison, the most famous inmate being Marie-Antoinette. Part of the palace was Sainte-Chapelle, built by Louis IX for his passion relics. Although greatly developed over the centuries, there are many original features.
This former royal palace now houses the French Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État and the Constitutional Council. Over the centuries royals from around Europe took up residence here. Guided tours are available introducing visitors to changing fortunes of the palace’s history, from the 18th century when parts were opened up to retailers, its place in the French Revolution and its association with prostitution in the 19th century.
There is nothing left in place of the Tuileries Palace to see in Paris today. The building was set on fire by the Paris Commune, the socialist government that ruled the city for ten days in March of 1871. It was subsequently demolished with stone going to Corsica to build the Château de la Punta, and statuary used on various schools, roads and bridges. Some statues can be seen inside the Galerie du Carrousel entrance to the Louvre Museum.
Today the Grand Palais is a large exhibition and museum complex on the Champs-Élysées, having being built for the Exposition Universalle of 1900. Architecturally, it is known for its glass barrel-vaulted roof – an innovative technique at the time of its construction. During WW1 it was used as a hospital, and during the occupation of Paris it was used by the Nazis as a truck depot and then to stage propaganda exhibitions.
Built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the Petit Palais is now home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. During the 1900 exhibition the displays showed the history of art from the beginning to the present. Today the exhibits include a small collection of Greek and Roman artefacts, a substantial collection of Medieval and Renaissance paintings and sculptures as well as a remarkable collection of 19th century art, including Courbet, Monet and Rodin.
A privately owned castle that has been in the hands of the same family since the early 1600s. Château de Breteuil is in a relatively remote spot in the Vallée de Chevreuse. Get a RER Line B to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, and from there use the town’s public transport to get to the castle or take a taxi.
One of the finest Renaissance castles in France, with an exception fine art museum, the Musée Condé. In Paris take a main line SNCF train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux – this journey takes about 25 minutes. RER Line also goes to Chantilly-Gouvieux, but this takes about 45 minutes. From the train station in Chantilly you can either walk (20 minutes), get a taxi (5 minutes) or take a free bus to reach the chateau. The Desserte Urbaine Cantilienne bus leaves the bus station in front of the train station, get off at Chantilly, église Notre-Dame stop.
Royal residence built for Louis XV and later restored for Napoleon, the castle was one of three seats of royal government in France. In Paris take a SNCF train from Gare du Nord. Depending on which train you get, the journey can vary from 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. From the station in Compiègne, the palace is 10 minutes by foot. From Monday to Saturday, the local council provides free buses (lines 1 or 2) that run from the train station to the palace, get of at the Saint Jacques stop.
A 16th century masterpiece of Renaissance architectures is appropriately used to house a national collection of Renaissance art. Get to the castle by taking the RER D line at Gare du Nord going in the direction of Creil. After about 15 minutes get off at Garges-Sarcelles station. From here take bus 269 heading in the direction of Hôtel de Ville Attainville, after about 20 minutes get off at the Général Leclerc bus stop.
Inhabited by the Capetian Dynasty through to the House of Orléans, Fontainebleau has been a royal and imperial residence for over seven centuries. In Paris, at the Gare de Lyon take a main line train for either Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes. The stop for Château de Fontainebleau is Fontainebleau-Avon station. From the station in Fontainebleu take Ligne 1 bus in the direction of Les Lilas, getting off at the Château’ stop.
Residence of Madame de Maintenon, second wife of Louis XIV.
Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais’s residence, the French government’s headquarters from 1800 to 1802, and Napoleon’s last residence in France. One of the easier castles on the outskirts of Paris to get to. It is a quick RER train journey to La Défense, and then a 25 minute bus (number 258) ride direct to the château.
The home and park of Alexandre Dumas, author of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.
Reconstructed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as the ideal Medieval French castle.
Originally a 14th century fortified manor, from 1896 to 2009 Château de Rambouillet was the summer residence for the Presidents of France. The town of Rambouillet is about an hour by train from the centre of Paris. Get a train at the Gare Montparnasse – get a train on Line N. Once at the station, the castle is about a 15 minute walk – passing through the gardens of the chateau.
In the 1860s Napoleon turned what was a royal palace in to the Musée d’Archéologie National.
A baroque French château at which the combination of landscape, architecture and interior design marked the beginning of marked the beginning of the Louis XIV style. From Gare de l’Est station in Paris take train Line P (going in the direction of Provins) to Verneuil l’Etang train station. There are direct trains every 60 minutes and the journey time is around 35 minutes. In front of the station get the ‘Châteaubus’ shuttle direct to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. The shuttle is in front of the train station exit. The shuttlebus operates on a cash only basis, and in 2017 it will run every day from 25 March 5 November.
Probably one of the most famous castles/Palaces in the world, an attraction with five centuries of history.
One of the largest and best preserved Medieval castle’s in France.